The Titans have lost their quarterback (yet again), and with it the fans have lost much of the reason for continuing to watch the team play out the end of the season. It's unclear what Ken Whisenhunt will opt to do in the interim, but it looks like Jake Locker will be the guy for the next two weeks, his final snaps in two-toned blue. Locker's last game against the Jets was a memorable one for both good and bad reasons; it was a day when he tossed three first half touchdowns and was torching the Jets defense, before getting knocked out of the game with a hip injury via a late hit.
This time Locker faces the Jets in much different circumstances. Both the Titans offense and the Jets defense have had more struggles than anticipated, and are looking to end the year on a high note.
The Jets have two corners that you've probably never heard of starting Sunday; that being Darrin Walls and rookie Marcus Williams. The former has had a pretty good year though, notching two interceptions to go along with eleven passes defensed. With the Titans wideouts' health in doubt (Hunter is out, and Wright is not likely to play), Walls will be matched up with Nate Washington more often than not. Washington burned the Jets in that last matchup, but has taken a step back this year. I expect that battle to be a hard fought one which neither side really 'wins'. With the injury-depleted group the Titans are working with, you'd think the coaches would work McCluster into the lineup more. After all, he was solid as a WR for Kansas City before his exodus to Nashville.
The Titans main threat, as it has been for much of the season, will come across the middle in the form of Delanie Walker. Unlike his teammates, Walker is having a very good year, and should be able to take advantage of some speed-deficient Jets linebackers. Whoever is playing quarterback should be looking his direction often.
Where to begin? To date the Titans have lost LT Michael Roos and C Brian Schwenke to IR. RT Michael Oher and rookie LT Taylor Lewan have been out too, leaving a combination of Svitek (LT, Levitre (LG), Chris Spencer (C), Chance Warmack (RG), and Byron Stingily (RT). That group is not winning any battles in the trenches, especially against a relatively talented Jets defensive line. Muhammed Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Damon Harris are a formidable front three. OLB Quinton Coples, while not a well rounded defender, can rush the passer, and his counterpart Calvin Pace can still get after it as well. For an offensive line that just surrendered eight sacks to the Giants last week, this is not a positive outlook. Beyond their struggles in pass pro, the unit has failed to open holes for the running backs (though, as we've seen, these issues have as much to do with poor scheming than with individual talent problems).
The running game that was once the staple of Tennessee football (for good or bad), is in shambles. It's tough to pin the blame on guys like Bishop Sankey, who has struggled to hit explosive plays with any regularity. The coaching staff have not done him any favors with formation/play calling, and the deterioration of the offensive line would make it tough for any back to produce positive results. The result has been a group that runs sparsely, and ineffectively. By midway through the second quarter, the run has been abandoned. They cannot let that happen again if they want to hang with the Jets. But this coaching group haven't showed that they will stick with a game plan for five minutes, let alone four quarters,
It's likely going to be another long day, which is sad because the Giants (before the Titans played them) and Jets have combined for a stunningly bad 5-20 record. The Titans obviously have a long way to go before they are a competitive squad, and the team will need another good draft (assuming this past year's one stays good objectively) to get back on track. In the mean time, the team will need a rejuvenated running game and a gap sound defensive effort to tack another win in the column before the season's out.